Alina Selyukh | KERA News

Alina Selyukh

The Office of Government Ethics is back in the news as its website crashed, for the second time in less than a month, again under a flood of inquiries.

The advisory agency typically works to vet people who run the country and detangle them from financial ties that may influence their work in public office. And typically, this work happens quietly in the background when administrations transition from one president to another.

Ajit Pai, the senior Republican on the Federal Communications Commission, will be the country's new chief telecommunications regulator. He's a proponent of limited government and a free-market approach to regulations.

Pai's promotion within the FCC under the administration was long rumored and confirmed on Monday by his office. In a statement, Pai said he looked forward "to working with the new Administration, my colleagues at the Commission, members of Congress, and the American public to bring the benefits of the digital age to all Americans."

As the White House transitions from Barack Obama to Donald Trump, in the social-media age that means another transition — of the @POTUS Twitter account.

At 12:01 p.m., as Trump took the oath of office, the official presidential account switched to President Trump from Obama, who was the first president to use Twitter. All tweets from Obama's term as president are archived under a new account @POTUS44.

When the Watergate scandal blew up in the 1970s, one of the things to emerge from its shadow was the Office of Government Ethics. And OGE usually works quietly behind the scenes to make sure that people who run the country have no financial ties that could influence their work.

At its helm is a man named Walter Shaub Jr., a longtime ethics lawyer, who has been at OGE for a decade. And when you ask people about him, Shaub is described as careful, even-keeled, even kind of boring — a government lawyer.

Citing local regulations, Apple has removed The New York Times news app from its app store in China. The incident is the latest in the long history of media restrictions in the country, but also in the ongoing pattern of tech companies getting involved in the efforts.

ZTE is a company known for phones. Based in China, it's one of the largest smartphone makers around the world. But as it's trying to branch out, it launched a project last year to crowdsource a new path, asking its customers what they want. Maybe some kind of drone, ZTE executives thought, or a new way to use virtual reality.

In November, the typically straitlaced Office of Government Ethics surprised observers with a series of tweets mimicking Donald Trump's bombastic style, exclamation points and all: "Brilliant! Divestiture is good for you, good for America!"

Amazon's personal assistant device called Echo was one of the most popular gifts this Christmas. But this week, the device grabbed headlines for another reason: Police in Arkansas are trying to use its data in a murder investigation.

When AT&T, a leading Internet provider, proposed a massive merger with Time Warner, a huge media conglomerate, the question many people asked was: Will I have to pay more for my TV?

On Wednesday, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee quizzed the CEOs of the two companies — over and over posing basically the same question: What will the $85.4 billion merger mean for the prices that consumers may have to pay?

The debate over encryption and government access to secured communications dates decades back. But for many Americans, it grabbed their attention in the early months of this year, in the aftermath of the Dec. 2, 2015, mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif.

The federal ethics watchdog isn't the kind of agency that typically airs its positions on Twitter — let alone in a snarky tone, with exclamation points.

But it's been an all-around weird day at the U.S. Office of Government Ethics.

Picture this: You're at a park, on a walk, with a baby. A friendly middle-aged man approaches you and tells you your stroller could be really dangerous.

You might think this man is crazy. But maybe not if you knew he's the nation's product safety chief.

On April 6, 2015, my mother arrived in my one-bedroom apartment after more than 24 hours of air travel and, after a quick nap, declared it was time for presents.

Out of her suitcase emerged an opaque industrial bag dotted with some austere cyrillics. Out of the bag tumbled a small pile of gruesome-looking metal parts. My trained Russian eye instantly summoned their reconstructed visual: My gift was a hand-crank meat grinder. Two-and-a-half pounds of aluminum, in a suitcase, flown overseas.

Twitter's inability to curb harassment and trolling has long plagued the social platform — by far its biggest criticism. The company is now trying something it hopes will rein in abusive users.

Twitter says it's adding new ways for users to flag or avoid seeing offensive posts in the broadest attempt yet to tackle the problem.

For decades Freedom House has been ranking the world on free speech, political and civil rights. In recent years, this nongovernmental organization has extended its research into the state of the Internet. And for the sixth consecutive year, it has found Internet freedom on a decline.

Samsung is offering repairs, refunds and replacements for about 2.8 million top-load washers after receiving hundreds of reports of machines vibrating excessively — in some cases, so much that the lids became detached.

Twitter shocked the Internet Thursday with a farewell to Vine: "In the coming months we'll be discontinuing the mobile app."

We could have seen it coming. The six-second looped-video site hasn't gotten much love from Twitter, which is grappling with self-reflection: another quarter of losses, layoffs of 9 percent of the staff, constant rumors of a potential sale.

Today may be the day when cable and telecom execs shake their heads at Google with a smug "I told you so."

The tech giant is scaling back its plan to wire American cities for hyper-fast Internet — the project called Google Fiber.

Telecom giant AT&T has reached an $85.4 billion deal to buy media titan Time Warner. The news of this transformational merger has shaken up both industries, raising eyebrows on Wall Street and drawing criticism from lawmakers and even the presidential campaigns.

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Updated at 7:30 p.m. ET

Hackers attacked a major Internet infrastructure company Friday, causing intermittent disruptions to websites and services including Twitter, Amazon, Spotify and Airbnb most of the day. It wasn't until shortly after 6 p.m. ET, that the company said that the "incident" had been resolved.

Now that Samsung's Galaxy Note 7s have caught fire even after the phone-maker said it had changed battery suppliers, and the real cause of overheating remains a mystery, the Korean tech giant is facing new questions about its transparency throughout the recall debacle.

The Department of Transportation did not mince any words: Starting mid-Saturday, the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 will be "considered a forbidden hazardous material under the Federal Hazardous Material Regulations."

Google's products are everywhere: maps, Gmail, the Chrome browser, the Chromecast video/audio system, the Android mobile operating system, YouTube, Waze. But the company has been far less successful at selling things rather than software.

Since their launch in 2012, cellphone emergency alerts have become a frequent tool for public safety officials to alert people to missing children, warn them of impending weather calamities or notify them of dangers specific to the local community.

Artificial intelligence is one of those tech terms that seems to inevitably conjure up images (and jokes) of computer overlords running sci-fi dystopias — or, more recently, robots taking over human jobs.

But AI is already here: It's powering your voice-activated digital personal assistants and Web searches, guiding automated features on your car and translating foreign texts, detecting your friends in photos you post on social media and filtering your spam.

Yahoo has revealed that it suffered a massive cyber breach in late 2014, which the company believes resulted in theft of information about the accounts of at least 500 million users.

The Internet responded in stride — as it has to all recent Yahoo-related news — with the regular tide of jokes about Yahoo's dinosaur status.

Samantha Cannariato has been trying to return her Samsung Galaxy Note 7 for more than a week. All owners have been urged to exchange the device after reports of phones exploding or catching fire. After hours in calls and five trips to the store, Cannariato still can't get rid of the phone.

When a man-made disaster of unfathomable scope strikes your city and its central symbol of prosperity has been leveled to ruin — and it's your job to jolt it into resurgence — where do you begin?

Only hours had passed after the planes struck New York City's twin towers on Sept. 11, 2001, when then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani made a promise to rebuild: "We're not only going to rebuild, we're going to come out of this stronger than we were before."

Apple had waited many years to send its very first tweet. It finally happened on Wednesday, with a release of a sponsored tweet promoting the new iPhone 7: "New cameras. Water-resistant. Stereo speakers. Longer battery life."

Except — oops! — CEO Tim Cook had yet to announce the new version of the smartphone. When he finally did, he said, as always: "It's the best iPhone that we have ever created."

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